More copyright musings…

/ 29 June 2003

I’ve just come back from spending some time with the ATLA folk (theological librarians). They had graciously extended an invitation to me to speak at their annual meeting. I decided to use the opportunity to challenge them to lead their institutions into an open source future, in large measure because if religious meaning-making is happening in popular culture, and if theologians want to engage it, then we need to have access to mass mediated sources, and the ability to copy and play with them for the purposes of interpretation and teaching. In any case, coming back from the meeting I spent the plane ride reading Harry Potter 5. Once I arrived home, my partner sent me a couple of links to recently published pieces that used the Harry Potter “launch” to think about copyright issues. Tim Wu, in the online magazine Slate, writes about international copyright regimes, and the ways in which Scholastic has gone after what in some sense amounts to “fan fiction,” or adaptations of the Hogwarts world to specific contexts. And Frank Rich in the New York Times reflects upon the enormous success of a print book that has an “opening weekend” much bigger than most movies, and ponders this new generation that rips, mixes and burns music with such blithe disregard for copyright. Perhaps, the author suggests, this generation is looking for quality (and as the iTunes store attests) is willing to pay for it.